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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Texas!

Roy Williams & Co. are out.

Although close, UNC-UT wasn't too exciting of a game.


Dad's Happy

Connecticut wins big.

Further, Stanford's fall eases the Huskies' path to the Final Four. The lone remaining obstacle of note, the North Carolina State Wolfpack, did not impress against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Meanwhile, Texas continues to lead North Carolina.


In Progress

Connecticut is destroying DePaul, as Jim Calhoun is getting the best (and then some) of former assistant Dave Leitao. Huskies playing well.

Meanwhile, UNC is keeping it close against UT.


East Coast Bias

The PAC-10's failures in this year's NCAA Tournament do not East Coast Bias eliminate -- or excuse.

West Coast basketball teams regularly receive less love and attention from ESPN and national print and online pundits. That being said, college 'ball has the tournament and so the bias has little impact.

College football has the poll-influenced Bowl Championship Series. East Coast Bias has certainly worked against Washington and USC in the past several years as both programs competed for the right to play for the national championship.


My bracket...

has gone to hell.

Back to rooting for the underdogs.

Maybe I'll put together a Sweet 16 Bracket Pick 'Em game on this site...


Props to CBS

The network did a great job alternating scenes from Syracuse's victory and Alabama's triumph.

How 'bout the the Orangemen? A huge victory over Maryland.


For a Moment

You had to believe Stanford's three point attempt was destined for the net.

Alabama missed its final two free throws. Down by three, Stanford grabs the rebound, comes down the floor and gets a good look from outside. Tie game?

Nope. Stanford's magic had run out.

PAC-10 Futility: 1-3 in the NCAA Tournament.


'Bama

has reversed the 'Tide.

Pun intended. They're up 64-57.

I'd count an Alabama victory as the tourney's first big upset.


Defense

Emmett makes a great move, but the Red Raiders fail to defend against the drive-and-dish. St. Joe's advances.

Meanwhile, Stanford is on quite a run.


Andre Emmett

Will he lead the Red Raiders to the promised land? Or will Knight's comeback bid against St. Joe's fall short? 68-63, Hawks, as I write.


Not bad

St. Joe's-Texas Tech and Stanford-Alabama are turning out to be good games.

Though Maryland is having loads of problems with Syracuse's zone defense.


They Said It

"You win 25 ballgames and you go 17-1 in your league, and everyone says, 'No matter what, you're in.' Well, 'no matter what' happened."
-- Utah State's Stew Morrill

He's right, of course. ESPN's Bubble Watch had his team as a "lock" for the two weeks going into Selection Sunday.


Did You Know?

The 52 points by Louisiana-Lafayette were the fewest against N.C. State in the NCAA Tournament since 1983. The team? Houston, beaten by the Wolfpack 54-52 in the national championship game.

Courtesy the (Raleigh, North Carolina) News & Observer.


With 4 seconds on the shot clock...

There is no need to double-team a player out behind the 3-point line.

Manhattan shouldn't have doubled. Wake would have missed a tray or a long field goal and the Jaspers would have had about 6-7 seconds to tie or win the game.


Benton

Two great plays, then an off-balance miss.

Wishes he could have the last one back.

Flores is a player. Nothing but respect from these corners.


Where's Thursday's Bravado?

Excepting Flores and Holmes, the other Jaspers look tired and unsure of themselves.

Will Bobby Gonzalez' enthusiasm become their own during the timeout?


Holmes

Manhattan big man Dave Holmes is having another great game. Will it be enough?


Gonzo

Nevada embarrassed Gonzaga. The "game" just ended, but the 'Zags were all but finished early in the first half, when the Nevada Wolf Pack (not to be confused with the Wolfpack of North Carolina State) jumped out to an 18 point lead. Gonzaga shot 13 percent from behind the arc and 37 percent overall. Those kind of numbers just won't get it done.

Credit coach Trent Johnson for engineering two impressive upsets.

Analysis to come, but for now, I must get back to the Manhattan and Wake Forest. Flores is keeping the Jaspers competitive.


The Evil Empire

Duke thrashed Seton Hall earlier today. Andre Barrett was nowhere to be found. Chris Duhon's injured ribs didn't prevent him from playing top-notch defense, suggesting he'll be an effective contributor for the Blue Devils in the games that follow.


The Quick and Dirty

I was out yesterday evening, away from a computer.

Washington Dissapoints -- Despite another stellar performance by 5'8" Nate Robinson, the Huskies go down. Props to UAB. The Blazers played hard, smart and appeared very determined.

Kansas Heart Kansas City -- Its good to be close to home and the (mediocre) Jayhawks showed why. Illinois-Chicago didn't put up much of a fight.

Musketeer Momentum -- Xavier's comeback against Louisville was, in a word, impressive. Not because the Cardinal played particularly well, but because the Musketeers demonstrated "that something extra" so often missing after a team works its way through a grueling conference tournament.

Pittsburgh's Promise -- Was not on display yesterday evening. Central Florida kept it close, no doubt aided by the Panthers' offensive woes. Pitt shot a season-worst 29.5 percent, and had their fewest field goals (13) and assists (seven).


Friday, March 19, 2004

Ryan Gomes

was exceptional. But the All-American couldn't win the game by himself.

Makes you wonder how Providence won twenty games. Or what Tim Welsh has been working on all year.

My friends who attend PC would love to see Welsh fired -- and replaced with Steve Lavin.

Wishing www.LoseLavin.com was still up. A wonderful site in its day...


Huggins 'Thugs, Careless 'Cats and Donovan's Dunces

EN: Question for Bob Huggins: What, a shirt and tie woulda killed ya?

GH: If Huggins and Billy Donovan played a first-round game, would anyone win?

EN:If they played Lute Olson.

This exchange speaks for itself.


"I can't believe we lost to an ocean."

The sentiment in Providence, after the Friars lost to Pacific. As I noted earlier, never count out a team whose players have funny-sounding names.

An uneventful day (hence the sparse blogging). Higher seeds advance. Lower seeds choke under pressure.

Many had bought into the hype about Western Michigan. Fool me once...



Gone to Providence

To watch the PC-Pacific game at a local student bar with friends.

Should be an experience -- though I won't tell 'em I picked Pacific.


I learned my lesson

GH: Needing a bucket, ULL guard Brad Boyd throws a pass to two wide-open Cajuns. Unfortunately, both are on the bench. Too many missed opportunities against an unimpressive Wolfpack.

Next time, don't bet on teams for sentimental reasons. An Arizona assistant turned head coach does not a tourney upset guarantee.


BC looked unimpressive but...

for my money, a match-up against Georgia Tech would be wonderful.

An intense clash of styles. BC counts on the inside game, Tech on outside shooting.


Business as Usual

The higher seeds lead. Boston College by 6, NC State by 7, Memphis by 11 & Illinois by 12.

The Eagles, for their part, started the half a little sluggish.


Pulling out all the stops

On their second day blogging for Page 2, Graham Hays and Eric Neel are picking up the pace:

GH: How did Speedy Claxton choose Hofstra over Murray State? "Speedy Racer" would have been a national icon.

EN: Seventeen bonus points for remembering Claxton was a Hofstra man. Six more if you know Hofstra's mascot without having to look it up.

GH: Dutchmen!

EN: You mean Ragin' Dutchmen, don't you?

GH: Right, those Dutch are a fiery people.

EN: Just look at Rik Smits.

ESPN's bloggers have today arranged an all-star cast, calling out Popeye Jones, Speedy Claxton, Rik Smits and Greg Ostertag in little more than an hour. Here's hoping they don't go for the jugular; a reference to Ed O'Bannon, Tate George or God Shamgod.


In Progress

Utah, down early, is struggling to score. Agbai's been huge for the Eagles.

The Rajun' Cajuns, keeping it close. Without Marcus Melvin, North Carolina State would be toast.

Memphis, putting the game away early? Rodney Carney is putting on a clinic against South Carolina.

Murray State is finding a way to keep pace with Illinois, though neither the Racers (34%) nor the Illini (35%) are shooting particularly well.


Must See TV

Dan Shaughnessy is reporting that CBS would like to have Billy Packer interview Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli this weekend.

On Sunday, after Packer questioned St. Joe's 1 seed during the selection special, Coach Martelli called Packer a "jackass."


Morning Roundup: Online Pundits

--Andy Katz saw the Gators' loss coming, as Manhattan entered the game with confidence, having learnt a lesson or two from last year's loss to Syracuse. Having two-time MAAC player of the year Luis Flores around didn't hurt the Jaspers.

--Mike DeCourcy writes of Florida's performance, recalling this gem of a description from December:

Not only was it a horrific stretch to suggest the Gators were the best this sport has to offer, it also was a bit of a fudge to call them a team. What you have is a bunch of guys in the same color uniforms doing basketball things, but not really playing the game.

Ouch. He then hints at the unthinkable. Donovan out at Florida?

In particular, [Anthony] Roberson morphed from an astonishingly advanced high school freshman point guard into a me-first, shot-happy prep senior. His performance at the adidas ABCD Camp in July 2001 was perhaps the most selfish I've seen in a dozen years of going to the summer talent camps, which aren't exactly festivals of team play. Wing Matt Walsh was obviously talented but rarely under control when playing for his summer teams. But these two were rated highly, and signing them enhanced Donovan's reputation as a recruiter. They have not enhanced his reputation as a coach.

--Tony Mejia finds Herb Sendek's Wolfpack looking for a little respect. They'll have to earn it -- I have Louisiana-Lafayette upsetting the ACC club and moving to the Sweet Sixteen.

--Gregg Doyel joins the bash Florida bunch, ripping into Anthony Roberson with little remorse.

In the first half, when Florida needed their only All-SEC player to lead them, Roberson led them into disarray. He repeatedly frustrated Florida coach Billy Donovan by not running a play or not lining up correctly or not playing defense or going one-on-five and launching a 23-foot air ball.

Early in the second half, sophomore center Adrian Moss yelled for Roberson to "get your head straight and play!" This is what happens when you recruit an all-star roster of AAU legends with only one ball to share. Guys like James White, Orien Greene and Mario Boggan transfer, Drejer quits in midseason, and Roberson jacks up 23-foot air balls. Roberson finished with one assist and five turnovers, the last coming when he drove and passed out toward David Lee and Matt Walsh, neither of whom were expecting Roberson to do anything but shoot.

Roberson is the face of Florida basketball, which is fine if you're into skills but lousy if you're into results.

--Stewart Mandel takes a different line, arguing that the first day of the NCAA tournament exposed and eliminated the pretenders. He's right.

That was the difference between contenders like the Terps, Orangemen, Deacons and Tar Heels -- well-versed by now in pressure situations -- and pretenders like the Spartans, Gators and Wildcats. When the going got tough, no one stepped up in the clutch for the pretenders. Michigan State star Paul Davis committed a silly fifth foul with the game on the line. Florida's David Lee disappeared on offense. Arizona's Salim Stoudamire stopped making 3-pointers.


They Said It

"It's funny. It's an NCAA [Tournament] game, and a lot of people don't have energy for the game. I don't know where the energy was."
-- Florida's Anthony Roberson


Learned & Observed: Day One

Learned: The selection committee was right to select Nevada for the Field of 65. The Wolf Pack demonstrated confidence and toughness in battling back against Michigan State.

Observed: Maryland, visibly worn down. Either because of the altitude in Denver or as a result of the team's grueling run through the ACC tournament. Billy Gillispie coached a great game and his Miners impressed many a fan.

Learned: Jeff Capel is a rising star, but his wisdom wasn't enough to left the Rams over the Deamon Deacons. About which we learned little; they've been known to be an on-again, off-again team for months.

Observed: Bobby Knight, at ease. Who knew? Charlotte came and went, as expected.

Learned: Not only did Billy Packer's comments get Phil Martelli fired up, but they also served to inspire his troops. Jameer Nelson was sensational against Liberty.

Observed: Nothing about Stanford. I'm on the East Coast and CBS wasn't kind enough to give me a look at the championship-bound Cardinal.

Learned: The Orangemen know how to play man-to-man defense. BYU, in contrast, forgot how to run an offense after the 'Cuse switched out of their patented zone.

Observed: Manhattan come out swinging and never look back. The day's most enthusiastic squad. Props to Bobby Gonzalez.

Learned: Nothing about Duke. Every year, the Dukies blow out their first opponent.

Observed: Texas demoralize the Princeton offense. The Tigers aren't as polished as they were during the Pete Carril era.

Learned: Dave Leitao deserved serious consideration for Coach of the Year. He has the Blue Demons clicking, as was evident in the team's come from behind victory over the Dayton Flyers.

Observed: Tyler Coppenrath lay brick after brick. Too bad, really. But Connecticut advances towards the inevitable showdown with Stanford.

Learned: Andre Barrett has a lot of heart. The senior was sensational down the stretch, helping put away Lute Olson's least disciplined squad in years.

Observed: 'Bama benefit tremendously from their tough schedule. You could see the Tide's energy down the stretch. They'd been in many close games before.

Learned: Little about Gonzaga. Didn't get to see much of the 'Zags game against Homer Drew and Valparaiso.

Observed: Roy Williams at work. Tar Heel nation now knows he was worth the wait.


Frye-d?

Center Channing Frye is the last player I'd blame for Arizona's woes, given that the guards don't get him the ball often enough.

Gregg Doyel sees it differently. With Isiah Fox, a 6-foot-9, 269 pound warrior, the Wildcats might have been able to neutralize Kelly Whitney. Fox, you remember, has been out for the season since he injured his knee early in the year. Without Fox and against only Frye, Whitney went for 24 points and 14 rebounds, likely the difference in tonight's game.

That being said, Arizona underperformed this season because of a lack of leadership. My hope is that Salim Stoudamire grows up this summer (read: no more pouting after every other possession). Otherwise another player -- Andre Iguodala, if he doesn't depart early for the NBA -- will have to step up.


Lost in the Shuffle

Grant Wahl gives credit where credit is due. Southern Illinois, he reminds us, earned a third straight at-large bid from the Missouri Valley conference. No small feat if you ask me.

Despite the loss to Alabama, Darren Brooks & Co. should hold their heads up high.


Telling it like it is

Gregg Doyel lets it rip, as he goes after the University of Miami for not being open about its intentions to land a new basketball coach.

[Coach Perry] Clark has been unable to win games, unable to win recruits and unable to win over the South Florida sports market. The real reason for Dee's lengthy evaluation of Clark is obvious: Miami doesn't want to fire Clark without a replacement in hand.

Doyel also notes that the coaching carousel goes round and round -- with mediocre coaches.

UNLV already has hired Lon Kruger, whose track record is good aside from his maddening habit of resigning every four years for a better job. Houston is looking at Tom Penders, who was removed at Texas and then removed himself at George Washington. Texas A&M is looking at Larry Eustachy, who partied his way out of the Iowa State job.

Though he offers an overdue suggestion. Why not Arizona's Josh Pastner?

Houston has a shot at Josh Pastner, the Arizona boy wonder who is going to make somebody, someday, a fabulous head coach. So what if he's 26? Across the board -- industry, athletics, politics -- our leaders are getting younger, not older.

Pastner's a particularly good fit for a school in Texas, as the Arizona assistant coaches an AAU team in Houston. Josh was the subject of a February feature in Sports Illustrated, "Whiz-kid Coach; At age 25, hoops-obsessed Arizona assistant Josh Pastner is on the fast track to a top job." More on his merits in an upcoming post.


Hand it to the Blue Demons

Dave Leitao's quite a prodigy. DePaul's got great recruiting potential in Chicago. If he succeeds in raising the school's profile, they'll be good for years to come.

But first, a match-up with his mentor. Leitao served as an assistant for Jim Calhoun at Connecticut.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

This Sucks

Arizona lost.

To Seton Hall.

The 'Cats played miserably. As individuals. Without defensive intensity. Devoid of leadership.


UNC

Making a comeback. How will Air Force respond?

Seems like the Heels have more energy...


Strong & Weak

Looking Strong

Arizona
Gonzaga
Air Force

Looking Weak

Seton Hall
North Carolina
Valpo

Still think 'Zona, the 'Zags and the Heels are moving on.


Don't want to jinx the 'Cats

...but Arizona's looking good in the early going.


Fazekas!

Check that. Never count out a team whose players have funny-sounding names.

Nevada wins.


They Said It

''I know America's going to look at it as an upset, but behind closed doors we don't. We know we can play with any team on any night.''
--Manhattan's Dave Holmes, after the Jaspers' win over fifth-seeded Florida.

Let's hope Gonzalez' squad can play with Wake Forest.


In Progress

Duke: Give me Liberty or give me death. Game's already over.

Connecticut: Coppenrath's having a tough game. Time to rest Okafor.

Michigan State: Izzo can C-O-A-C-H. Never bet on the WAC.

Texas & Princeton: Impressive first half for the Tigers. But they're having trouble against Texas' defense. Hope this game stays interesting.


The Coaching Carousel

Recapping today's games, Dickie V starts the rumor mill.

Is Bobby Gonzalez headed to St. John's? Will Billy Gillespie hang around UTEP for another year? Or two?

There's an opening at Auburn.


One More for the Jaspers?

Alexander Wolff recaps Manhattan's dismissal of Florida.

My bracket places Manhattan in the Sweet Sixteen. Wolff concurs, and let's us know who to watch on Saturday:

Manhattan is a better defensive team than Wake Forest, and as good as Deacons guards Chris Paul and Justin Gray are, the Jaspers' guards (Flores, Minor and Jason Wingate) have the physical stature to match up. Add to that backcourt play the team's foul-line sangfroid (76 percent on the year, 17-for-21 against Florida), and Manhattan is a tough crew to mount a comeback against. Saturday's second-round game will turn on whether Manhattan can grab a lead to protect; how Holmes and fellow senior Jason Benton can cope with the Deacons' 6-9, 275-pound Eric Williams; and how officials whistle play in the post...Don't be surprised if Manhattan becomes the latest senior-laden mid-major to reach the Sweet 16.


Texas San-Antonio?

Only down by eight, 35-27?


Not helping yourself

This happens every year, no? The "last team out" loses in the first round of the NIT.

LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Michael Kuebler and Hawaii were not intimidated by facing the only ranked team in the NIT. Kuebler scored 28 points to lead Hawaii to an 85-74 victory over No. 25 Utah State in the first round on Wednesday night.

"It was the last game of the year if you lose," said Kuebler, who was just one point shy of his career high. "We came into the game tonight thinking that they were the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament."

Continue reading "Snubbed Utah State routed at home by Hawaii in first round."


True.

GH: The inevitable bias of the present, but I can't remember many opening afternoons better than this one. Close games all over the place.


A Moment

McNamara and Warrick had a moment together at game's end. The two enjoy playing with one another. Lots of love. Lots of respect. Glad I have the 'Cuse going to the Sweet 16.


Something to think about over the summer

EN: VCU kids weren't prepared for what to do when they missed a late shot. That's on Capel*, coming out of the timeout.

Yup.

*Page 2's Tournament Blog needs an editor. Capel, not "Caple."


What's McNamara got left?

He's visibly beat.

Does he have enough in the tank for a tenth or eleventh three? It won't be Warrick down the stretch...


Good Question

GH: Jameer Nelson has scored like five baskets in a row. They might as well start doing close-ups of his ACL on every play. Why is he still in there?

Answer: Billy Packer. Martelli took the pundit's personally.


Coaching Folly

Araujo just picked up his fourth foul. Glad I picked Syracuse in this one.


McNamara!

He's putting on a clinic.

Just nailed his seventh from behind the arc. Wow.


CounterPunch

Eric Neel oversimplifies:

EN: The early story, except for Manhattan: Upsets that almost were: UTEP, SIU ... will BYU continue the trend?

Saving St. Joe's-Liberty, every game has been close.

The early story, parity in college basketball.

As for the games...

Syracuse's defensive adjustment is huge. Now we're learn a little about the Cougars. Have they done their homework? Will they recognize mismatches?

As for the Orange, will they do a better job guarding against the long ball in the second half?


So far, so good.

Great games. Alabama's been playing great 'ball.

Let's hope they don't have the opportunity to continue doing so. Final possession, coming up after the commercial break.


Four crucial minutes

If the Orangemen can show signs of life - particularly from within the 3-point line - in the final four minutes of the half, they'll be in good shape.

But if it gets to be a 10-12 point margin at the break, watch out.


About Time

ESPN's Graham Hays and Eric Neel are up with Page 2's Tournament Blog. Amen.

Early on, we're all in agreement:

GH: Terps fouled with 13 seconds left. Why not foul earlier if you're UTEP? Yes, it was a pretty clean jump ball, but you know the refs will never make that call in the final minute. Swish. Swish. 86-83.

Delaying might have cost the Miners the game.


Florida's Fall

The first upset!



Around the Horn

SIU, up early. Alabama played a tough schedule. I'll be interested to see how Mark Gotffried compares the Salukis to the Tide's conference and non-conference foes -- after Southern Illinois upsets 'Bama.

I predicted two ACC teams would go down in the first round. Maryland won. Will Wake lose? I doubt Capel's squad is deep enough. Wake Forest should pull away from VCU late in the first half.

St. Joe's will quickly dispose of Liberty. Syracuse will surprise the doubters by coming out strong.


UTEP just cost me...

my first game.

But after the performance the Miners put up this afternoon, I'll gladly go for a Billy Gillespie-coached squad in the future.


Do the Miners have it in them?

Down 81-78, UTEP is very much in this game.

But do they have it in them? The energy? The confidence? The heart?

This is when you learn a lot about a team.


Texas Tech

Pulling away?

Emmett's been huge.


UTEP

is missing that extra kick.

Maryland looks beatable. The question is whether the Miners will get their act together early enough.

Manhattan? Solid.


Charlotte

Keeping it close, early.


First impressions of UTEP

The Miners play more as individuals and less as a team (especially when compared to Manhattan).

They also seem less sure of themselves.

I believe they'll play with more confidence and cohesion as the game progresses. The only question is whether they can keep it close enough for their late resurgence to matter.

Also, Maryland looks better than did Florida in the early going. With Walsh injured, the Jaspers have a golden opportunity.


If Manhattan...

continues to pound the offensive glass, they'll be in good shape.

But you can already see Florida's size coming into play.


Filling out my final brackets...

Kentucky, Stanford, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State in the Final Four.

Introducing your 2004 NCAA Champions...Oklahoma State.

Yup.

Surprise Elite Eight guest: Arizona. I couldn't resist. My gut says they won't make it past Duke, but my heart tells me to go for it anyway.


He's so money

Seth Davis breaks down the bracket.

He was dynamite on TV.

And his predictions - or at least his reasoning - in this column just makes sense.

Accordingly, I may revise a prediction or two in the morning.

Though I won't follow Seth and predict Gonzaga -- yes, a 'mid-major' -- as the 2004 NCAA champion.


Quietly meeting a challenge

A most inspiring column. Well worth the read.

I'll stick with Pacific upsetting Providence. But I'll be sure to keep an eye on Dwight Brewington in the future.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Final Four - A Change at the Top?

Should I replace Georgia Tech with Kentucky? I'm still not convinced the Wildcats will get past Washington, but if they do Kansas will be a piece of cake.

Now I'm considering whether Georgia Tech will have the depth to run and gun with Tubby Smith's crew.

[Kentucky (1) or Georgia Tech (3)], Oklahoma State (2), Mississippi State (2) and Stanford (1)


Second Round Picks. In for a Penny...

In for a Pound.

(Phoenix) Louisiana-Lafayette > Vanderbilt -- Vandy isn't very good away from home. The 'Rajun Cajuns are a balanced team, with seven players averaging 9-14 points, and have a hard-to-solve zone defense. What's not to like?

Four more selections:

(St. Louis) Kansas > Pacific -- Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk. Not a fan of Kansas, but I've always been partial to Bill Self-coached squads.

(Atlanta) Mississippi State > Louisville -- The Bulldogs lost only three games playing in one of America's toughest conferences. They're big, they're strong and they refuse to lose. Louisville's been on a skid of late and their lack of confidence will be the difference down the stretch.

(St. Louis) Georgia Tech > Boston College -- I figure the ACC will send one team to the Final Four. Very impressed by Tech's victory at Duke and over UNC in the ACC Semis. Jack's the team's leader, Elder their leading scorer. Luke Schensher, the Yellow Jackets 7-foot center, will stay out of foul trouble and keep Craig Smith in check.

(Phoenix) Connecticut > Dayton -- Risky, as the Huskies become my fourth 2 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. But I can't help myself. Gordon and Co. showed too much heart in winning the Big East Tournament. With or without the big fella, Calhoun's bunch advances.

Still considering...

(East Rutherford) St. Joseph's vs. Texas Tech
(East Rutherford) Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin
(East Rutherford) Wake Forest vs. Manhattan
(St. Louis) Kentucky vs. Washington
(Atlanta) Duke vs. Arizona
(Atlanta) Texas vs. North Carolina
(Atlanta) Cincinnati vs. Illinois


Sense and Sensibility

Tom Oates at the Wisconsin State Journal sorts through history for useful facts and figures.

-Over the last seven years, an average of three double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16 and they're almost always Nos. 10, 11 or 12 from major conferences or high-end mid-majors.
-At least one No. 2 seed will fall in the second round.
-When picking the Final Four, follow the lead of the NCAA selection committee. In the last seven years, 13 of the 28 available spots have gone to No. 1 seeds. Since 2000, the Final Four has had five No. 1s, three No. 2s, three No. 3s and a No. 5.

Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram serves up "Bracketology for Dummies." Of use:

-The last time at least one double-digit seed didn't advance to the Sweet 16 was 1995.
-Maryland went from a bubble team to an automatic qualifier by sweeping three games and winning the ACC tournament for the first time since 1984. Good for the Terps. But when it won the national championship in 2001, Maryland "lost'' in the ACC semifinals.


Craig, we hardly knew you

Esherick is out at Georgetown after a 13-15 season.

'Twas only a matter of time.


You Knew This Was Coming

Ed Graney gets all sentimental on us.

In this time of universal conversion, when phrases like "regime change" and "weapons of mass destruction" have become more ordinary than sporadic, is there a more appropriate vision than a service academy competing in March Madness? "We know how important our season has been to a lot of the troops over there," Gerlach said. "We know they try and plan their schedules around our games. That's very important to us. That means a lot."

This was Scott on Sunday, shortly after learning his team had been afforded an at-large berth: "You want to be rewarded for what happens on the court. ... It feels good to know that is what happened. "We weren't selected because of a patriotic theme or because of the war effort." He's right, of course. One-hundred percent. And still, is there a better vision than these kids at this time in this event?

Good luck finding one.


Final Four: Preliminary Thoughts

Georgia Tech (3), Oklahoma State (2), Mississippi State (2) & Stanford (1)


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Sideshow

I went to school in St. Louis. Figure a little college-town love is in order after tonight's heroics.

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) -- Anthony Drejaj hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Saint Louis a 70-69 comeback victory over Iowa in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

Drejaj scored 23 points and Chris Sloan had 16 to lead Saint Louis (19-12), which trailed by 18 in the first half. Pierre Pierce gave Iowa a 69-67 lead on a driving layup with 5 seconds left, but Sloan found Drejaj with a pass in the right corner for the winning shot.


Continue reading St. Louis rallies, knocks off Iowa 70-69 in NIT

Keep an eye on Coach Brad Soderberg. He's solid and the Billikens should be Tournament regulars starting in a year or two.


Building a House?

--"JT the Brick" lays a few bricks while analyzing the tournament for MSNBC. His writing parallels a seventh-grader's.

--Mike DeCourcy guesses Duke will win the title. Mike's a great reporter -- his scoops are second only to Andy Katz' -- but his prognisticating is usually a bit off. As noted earlier, Arizona will defeat the Blue Devils if (and that's a huge if) the 'Cats come to play and Mississippi State star Lawrence Roberts is the perfect big man to get Shelden Williams into foul trouble. As goes Shelden, so goes Duke. This (at least) DeCourcy understands:

Williams' long arms and massive strength make him a terrifying interior defender, but he's of little concern sitting on the bench. Williams averaged 25.5 minutes and four fouls in Duke's four losses against ACC opponents. Sophomore Shavlik Randolph is a capable reserve, but he isn't as comfortable playing in place of Williams as when the two work together. In those four ACC losses, playing mostly as the sole big man, Randolph averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 14.8 minutes.


Florida A&M!

Will now have the pleasure of "challenging" the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Can the MEAC Champs play with the SEC's best for a half?


Let the Games Begin

Florida A&M leads early, 31-28.


Three more Second Round Picks

(Phoenix) Syracuse > Texas-El Paso -- I'm not high on the 'Cuse. But UTEP's surprise victory against Maryland sends the Orange one round deeper.

(East Rutherford) Oklahoma State > Memphis -- Calipari counts on Sean Banks, a talented freshman, for much of Memphis' offense. In this case, Banks' effort won't be enough in the second half.

(St. Louis) Gonzaga > Michigan State -- Izzo's club hasn't beaten an RPI Top 25 team all year. Seniors Blake Stepp and Cory Violette will make sure the 'Zags don't become the Spartans' first victim.


White Out

The Vermont Catamounts missed their connection in Buffalo and are having trouble getting to their first-round NCAA Tournament site.

Again.


Deep down, Bruce Weber is smiling

From the AP:

MURRAY, Ky. -- Murray State starter Kelvin Brown was suspended indefinitely Tuesday and will miss the team's NCAA Tournament opener after his arrest on drug charges...Brown averaged 12.7 points in 31 games for the Racers (28-5).

Brown, a forward and the team's second-leading scorer, was found hiding in a closet in the apartment, police said. He already was facing a warrant for allegedly leaving a service station without paying for gas earlier this month.

With Brown, Murray State wasn't going to win. Without him, they don't stand a chance. Pencil Illinois into the second round.


Working the Refs

Coaches work the refs. Because it works.

An amusing and informative segment on why for college basketball coaches, the game within the game is schmoozing the officials. The article's highlight

Of course, it's not polite for coaches to say they "work" officials. Few, in fact, will admit to such blatant behavior. Rather, they call for an open dialogue with officials during the course of a game.

That's what they call it - dialogue.

"I don't think you work an official," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Somebody who hasn't coached or played the game came up with that expression. Good officials just want to make sure they have a good atmosphere for the game, and you don't have it unless you have some communication with the players and the coaches."

Never mind that Lavin calls Krzyzewski a "master" when it comes to working officials. Not only is Krzyzewski successful, intelligent, articulate and a three-time national champion - c'mon, who's going to T him up? - but the venerable Coach K possesses a laser-like stare. "He uses the ol' stare-down pretty effectively, even from long distance," Lavin said. "Some of those officials try to hide, but it's like radar. He's looking right through the guy."

...and a lesson for those interested in the game's finer details.

This season, men's college basketball is testing something the NBA and WNBA do effectively. When an official calls a foul, that person takes the position closest to the team benches when play resumes, known as the trail position, to encourage communication.

So far, it seems to be working.

"For years there was a general philosophy that after you report a foul you want to get away from the coaches," said Bill Topp, editor of Referee magazine and a men's basketball official at the small-college level. "What that set up over the years is when a coach has a complaint, the coach is having to yell it across the floor and be even more demonstrative and loud. Now, there is an opportunity for dialogue."


Second Round, plus a pick

My first round selections set up the following second round matchups.

East Rutherford, N.J.

St. Joseph's vs. Texas Tech
Oklahoma State vs. Memphis
Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin
Wake Forest vs. Manhattan

St. Louis, MO

Kentucky vs. Washington
Gonzaga vs. Michigan State
Georgia Tech vs. Boston College
Kansas vs. Pacific

Atlanta, GA

Duke vs. Arizona
Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Texas vs. North Carolina
Cincinnati vs. Illinois

Phoenix, AZ

Stanford > Southern Illinois
Connecticut vs. Dayton
Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Vanderbilt
Texas-El Paso vs. Syracuse


Done

(St. Louis) Michigan State > Nevada
(Atlanta) Louisville > Xavier

Nevada's claim to fame is having beaten Kansas. Big deal. This year, everybody beat Kansas. Additionally, Tom Izzo can C-O-A-C-H.

Same for Louisville's Rick Pitino (at the college level). The Cardinals have to stop the bleeding sometime.


Awww, Sh**. First Round Picks

ESPN picks its five Cinderellas, putting me in good company.

The pundits agree with my picks; Louisiana-Lafayette is a good bet against North Carolina State, Manhattan a wise call against Florida, and Dayton a favorite against Louisville.

They also confirm my gut instincts.

(St. Louis) Kansas > Illinois-Chicago
(Phoenix) Texas-El Paso > Maryland

But ESPN and I can't both be right on all five counts. Therefore, I'll side with Coach Stallings.

(Phoenix) Vanderbilt > Western Michigan

While I continue to consider...

(St. Louis) Michigan State vs. Nevada
(Atlanta) Xavier vs. Louisville


The Ethics of College Sports

Former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy is on Texas A&M's short list.

Eustachy, you remember, resigned from the Cyclones after it was reported that he drank and partied with students the University of Missouri following an Iowa State road game.


According to ESPN, Eustachy is willing to agree to a "behavior clause" in his contract.


What a guy.


Sports Guy Scandal

Put simply, he's the funniest man in sports. Gets me every time. And with Seinfeld's near-retirement...

I wanted to honor the Sports Guy with a run-down of his college 'ball related columns.

But I couldn't find 'em. (Save this pathetic attempt and this average chronicle. That's two. Of his more than a hundred columns.)

And so the other shoe dropped. From an ESPN live chat with Bill Simmons himself:

Fan: Why don't you ever write about college basketball?

Sports Guy: I don't start watching until March. It's just too hard to follow -- guys only stay in school for two years, and there are 75-plus major programs. It's fun to root against Boston College, though. I wouldn't let Al Skinner coach a YMCA team.


The Quick Contrarian: Two that won't win

NBCSports' John Allen went up with his ten teams that can win the NCAA Tournament.

Not a bad lot, on the whole.

But neither Texas nor North Carolina are Championship-bound.

Allen's affirmative case for North Carolina rests on a single premise:

With Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May, anything is possible.

Not quite a ringing endorsement. The truth is that UNC is too young to make a run in the tournament. The Heels play more as individuals than as a team and their best moments are a product of their athleticism rather than solid fundamentals.

His argument for Texas is a little stronger:

The cupboard was still well stocked after [T.J.] Ford left and the returning veterans have performed as returning veterans should. Brandon Mouton and Royal Ivey form a nifty nucleus in the backcourt. James Thomas, in his 11th season — or is it his 12th? — is back down on the low block, active as ever, bouncing, hopping, preening and sporting that cool, knee-high tube sock look. Brian Boddicker, Brad Buckman and Jason Klotz lend additional support in the frontcourt, just as they did last season. Plus, with freshman forward P.J. Tucker added to the repertoire, Barnes still has all sorts of options.

Yet the caveat should send chills down your spine.

Ultimately, to reach the Final Four, the Longhorns would have to face Duke. Improving on the earlier 28-point loss to Blue Devils would be wise. Nothing big, just something like a 29-point improvement.

Texas didn't win its big games during non-conference and conference play. Why start now?


Fun Facts

From a brief guide to winning your office pool without ever having heard of Jameer Nelson, Josh Childress or Raymond Felton.

Mascots: Look for mascots that match the nicknames for states. Tar Heels (North Carolina), Jayhawks (Kansas), Badgers (Wisconsin), Hoosiers (Indiana), etc. More than a quarter of the past 100 Final Four teams fall into this category.

Tuition prices: Stick with the public schools. Last year was an anomaly with two private schools in the Final Four -- the first time since 1989. Of the past 100 Final Four representatives, 78 have been public institutions and Duke took nine of the remaining 22 spots.

Colors: Purple, brown and green uniforms are the most troublesome. In the past 25 years, green's only saving grace has been Michigan State. Brown hasn't seen a Final Four since St. Bonaventure in 1970 and LSU has been the torchbearer for purple with two Final Fours in the past 25 years.

Hoop havens: Basketball-crazed states North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas live up to their reputations in the Big Dance. A whopping 39 of the past 100 Final Four teams hail from the Big Four. Just once since 1979 has at least one of the four not been represented in a Final Four.


Monday, March 15, 2004

About Friggin Time

Andy Katz is reporting that unless Steve Lappas wins next year, he's out. From Katz' Daily Word:

The deal he struck with UMass on Monday gives him a job for another season, but the last two seasons of his contract are in jeopardy.

Lappas hasn't won. "Bruiserball" was a mess. The last time the Minutemen were an NCAA favorite was when John Calipari roamed the sidelines.

The cash-strapped state university could have pulled the plug on Lappas but then the university would have had to pay a new coach, too.

An explanation, not a justification.

The decision puts off an expected battle between Rick Pitino and John Calipari, the former Minutemen player and coach, respectively. Pitino would likely have pushed Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez while Calipari would have pushed former Minutemen player Tony Barbee, who is now a Memphis assistant.

I'm with Pitino. Manhattan is about to upset Florida. Bobby Gonzalez is a rising star.


As if Dukie V wasn't enough...

Gregg Doyel at SportsLine.com joins the chorus. Duke is God's gift to college sports, he argues.

Here's to Arizona, Illinois and Mississippi State, each of whom might/should get a crack at knocking the Blue Devils off their perch.


Who is B.J. Schecter?

The cast and crew at CNN/SI breaks down the tournament by region.

Seth Davis on Atlanta, Grant Wahl on Phoenix, Stewart Mandel on St. Louis, and B.J. Schecter on East Rutherford.

The others are familiar, but who is B.J. Schecter?

His photo is downright scary and, according to the archive, his most recent column is from February of 2001.

Update: Schecter, it turns out, breaks down "Marquee Matchups" for CNN/SI on a weekly basis. Best guess is that he's taken on more responsibility as an Editor.


"The question is: How effective will he be?" -- Coach Rick Stansbury

Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts, an All-American center, sprained his right ankle in an overtime loss to Vanderbilt.

He'll play on Friday, but how helpful will he be? "He came back and played the last 12 minutes of that (Vanderbilt) game. How effective was he? He had zero offensive rebounds and only three rebounds the last 12 minutes of the game."


Saturday at Noon

Am I getting ahead of myself?


Evening Roundup: Print Pundits

A mixed bag, from the nation's smaller and larger news sources

-- The San Francisco Gate's Jim Litke has a wonderful and uplifting piece on the Vermont Catamounts and their star, Taylor Coppenrath. In the America East Tournament Final, Coppenrath, still nursing a broken bone in his left wrist, scored 43 points as Vermont surprised Maine 72-53.

Now Coppenrath gets to go up against Emeka Okafor. "And isn't that just our luck?" Vermont's coach Tom Brennan asks. "One guy in the country can guard Taylor, and we drew the guy."

-- In case you hadn't noticed (CBS' repeated references to their corporate sponsors), the NCAA Tournament makes a little money. The Associated Press' Tim Martin has a segment on what the Big Ten's poor showing might mean for member schools. Ahhh, the business of basketball.

--The Elizabeth Star, "the most visited site in Carter County," captures the local flavor, quoting members of the underdog East Tennessee State Buccaneers ahead of the team's match-up with Cincinnati.

-- Mike DeCourcy runs down the names of four players whose time has come. Chalk this one up as useless pre-tournament banter (from a usually rock-solid columnist).

-- More reasons to count on Illinois: discipline issues over at Murray State. Live from Louisville TV.

-- MSNBC's Ray Glier gives no-nonsense advice for your office pool. The highlights:

Hope
Arizona is the other low seed to look out for because Channing Frye might actually start to see the ball in the postseason. Think about the possibilities of Frye getting some touches inside and getting a couple of early fouls on Duke’s Shelden Williams.

Fear
Eleventh-seed Utah over Boston College seems like a logical pick, but that’s part of the BC lull. The Eagles don’t look very good, they just win.

Truth
There are some others to keep an eye on. Twelfth-seed Pacific could get through to the weekend because Providence has not played well for two weeks.


This Just In: Kruger to UNLV

"UNLV hired Lon Kruger, a veteran college and pro coach, to lead the Runnin' Rebels basketball program back to national prominence.

Kruger accepted a five-year contract Monday, UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick said. The Nevada Board of Regents must approve the hiring at its Thursday meeting."

Continue reading here.


If Emeka Only Knew

Andy Katz has Stanford winning it all.

Maybe.

Commentators including Katz are fixated on the "six games test;" finding the club most likely to string together six victories in a row.

A fine measure, considering that is indeed what a champion must do.

But did Syracuse meet this test?


On the Orangemen

I'm no fan. Never have been. Never will be.

But (despite the rants and raves of the local sports radio guys) Brigham Young won't be the team to expose Syracuse's many weaknesses. Trust me.


Fraschilla at his best

Rarely do I benefit from the experience of ESPN's coach/commentators. Steve Lavin is mediocre (at best) and out of place as an analyst. Fran Fraschilla's columns on ESPN often repeat hackneyed themes.

Not today. Coach Fraschilla pens a great piece, "Waiting to see your name," in which he remembers what it feels like to be the head coach of a "bubble team" on Selection Sunday.

The column smacks of (naive) honesty...

Championship Week is also a time when coaches who are in the NCAA Tournament or who are on the "bubble" fill up sports radio talk shows all over the country. So, I talked with Hank in Miami, Mike in Portland, and, I even think, Billy Joe in Galveston. Anyone who wanted to hear my spin on why the Jaspers were worthy of an at-large bid got a piece of me at any hour of the day or night. I think it's called "spin."

...and admirable sentiment.

We caught a lot of heat, as did Bob Frederick and the NCAA Tournament committee, for our inclusion in the field. Various experts thought it was ludicrous that we were selected over teams from the various "power conferences." It didn't matter because we were off to Memphis.

A few days later, my Jaspers knock off Oklahoma in the first round. I remember walking down to the opposing bench to shake hands after the game with Kelvin Sampson, who has since become a good friend, and catching a glimpse of Frederick sitting courtside and instinctively winked at him. At the postgame press conference, I remember saying, "I guess the committee wasn't quite as dumb as everyone thought." For a mid-major school, this was our One Shining Moment.


First Round Picks

East Rutherford, N.J.

St. Joseph's > Liberty
Oklahoma State > Eastern Washington
Pittsburgh > Central Florida
Wake Forest > Virginia Commonwealth
Manhattan > Florida
Wisconsin > Richmond
Memphis > South Carolina
Texas Tech > Charlotte

St. Louis, MO

Kentucky > Florida A & M (> Lehigh)
Gonzaga > Valparaiso
Georgia Tech > Northern Iowa
Pacific > Providence
Boston College > Utah
Washington > Alabama-Birmingham

Atlanta, GA

Duke > Alabama State
Mississippi State > Monmouth
Texas > Princeton
Cincinnati > East Tennessee State
Illinois > Murray State
North Carolina > Air Force
Arizona > Seton Hall

Phoenix, AZ

Stanford > Texas-San Antonio
Connecticut > Vermont
Louisiana-Lafayette > North Carolina State
Syracuse > Brigham Young
Dayton > DePaul
Southern Illinois > Alabama

Still considering...

(St. Louis) Kansas vs. Illinois-Chicago
(Phoenix) Maryland vs. Texas-El Paso
(St. Louis) Michigan State vs. Nevada
(Atlanta) Xavier vs. Louisville
(Phoenix) Vanderbilt vs. Western Michigan


Afternoon Roundup: Online Pundits

-- Mike DeCourcy suggests that the "NCAA's pod system is pathetic." DeCourcy notes that Pittsburgh is likely to play Wisconsin in Milwaukee, UNC will travel to Denver to face Air Force, Kansas may face Providence in Kansas City, and Florida could (but won't) match-up against Wake Forest in Raleigh.

He's right, of course. And not just because the system keeps Arizona away from New England.

-- Frank Burlison breaks down Selection Sunday. As is often the case, Fox's assessment of Burlison as an expert is suspect. Frank thinks Maryland will test Stanford while Kansas (in St. Louis!) won't be able to match-up with Kentucky. He also argues Syracuse is well-positioned to make a run.

The pundits, Burlison included, are salivating over a potential Duke vs. UNC match-up on March 28th. Won't happen. Though Frank's Final Four picks -- Georgia Tech (out of St. Louis), Wisconsin (East Rutherford), North Carolina (Atlanta) and Stanford (Phoenix) -- aren't a bad lot, I'd find a replacement for UNC.

-- Phil Taylor has the day's best, noting that,"Every year at this time, the NCAA Tournament puts the NBA to shame." More excitement, passion, and drive. Fewer player altercations with the law. The ending is priceless.

"Some of those collegians will eventually play at 'the next level,' as they refer to the NBA. But in some ways, they're playing at the highest level right now."

I continue to argue that the NBA is for washed out college players.

-- Stewart Mandel shows Burlison up, making actual sense in dissecting the tournament. Worth the read. I agree with Mandel's:

Best Draw - Connecticut, "No one on the Huskies' side of the bracket -- N.C. State, Vanderbilt, DePaul or Dayton -- should remotely scare them."

Worst Draw - Pittsburgh, "One last-second loss and suddenly they're a third seed, playing a No. 6 seed, Wisconsin, in the Badgers' backyard."

Loaded region - Atlanta. "Duke found itself stuck in a bracket with Mississippi State, Texas, Cincinnati, Illinois, North Carolina and Arizona, any of whom can beat any team in the country on any given night."

Cupcake region - "St. Louis. Kentucky is no slouch... but Kansas, Providence and Michigan State are all about one seed too high. The Jayhawks, in particular, are the least-imposing No. 4 seed in the bracket."

Best first-round game - "Xavier-Louisville"

First-round upset waiting to happen - "Air Force over North Carolina. This matchup has all the necessary ingredients: the erratic Tar Heels most solve the Falcons' bewildering Princeton system, and they're playing an hour from Air Force's home base, Colorado Springs. Plus, Dick Vitale's been calling UNC his 'sleeper' for three weeks."

Elite Eight upset waiting to happen - "Mississippi State over Duke. How do you beat the Blue Devils? Get Shelden Williams into foul trouble. Who's the perfect big man to do that? Bulldogs star Lawrence Roberts. Plus, Timmy Bowers can D up J.J. Redick, too."

Brilliant.

Enough for today. Everybody reads ESPN's columnists anyway.


The Couch Slouch

May soon rival Bill Simmons. Today's piece is a keeper -- No cure for March Madness.

The highlight reel:

For there's no end to the avalanche of overwrought verbiage penetrating the basketball airwaves. On CBS, for instance, the unrelentingly faux-articulate Clark Kellogg said he thought Kentucky should be a No. 1 seed "based on their body of work." Kentucky's body of work? Please. Sir Isaac Newton had a body of work. James Michener had a body of work. Even Gary Busey has a body of work. Kentucky, my friends, has a 26-4 record.

&

Now, as you know, I love gamblers and real gambling, but I can't abide this nickel-and-dime office pool mania that grips the land. Tournament brackets are the crack cocaine of corporate America. If the Soviet Empire ever wanted to disable Microsoft or U.S. Steel, the ideal time to strike would be the 72 hours following Selection Sunday, when the senior vice president of product development is worrying about how Central Florida matches up with Pittsburgh.

Note to office pundits: Central Florida does not match up well with Pittsburgh. The Panthers are tough inside and talented outside. They won't be upset in the first round.


They Said It...

"I'm thrilled with Buffalo, great restaurants. Buffalo is a very underrated city."
-- Vermont's Tom Brennan


A Picture is worth...

Upset about the Spartans' seeding?


Tourney Predictions...

are on their way. Who's your sleeper?

Which ACC team will go down early?


Sign of the Times

Spotted during the Big East's conference tournament:

"Madison Square Gordon."


They Said It...

"Duke, seemingly no matter what happens to them, will be the nation's No. 1 team."
-- Stanford's Josh Childress

"I tell the kids, 'This is your reward, you get to travel the country."'
-- Connecticut's Jim Calhoun

"Obviously I'd like to say yes that it helps to play there. But as soon as I say that, if we lose then everybody is going to be saying 'See, that didn't help them at all to be in Kansas City.'"
-- Kansas' Keith Langford

"He [Billy Packer] called us out on national TV. That committee goes into a room and studies it and he's smarter than the committee? Enough with him."
-- St. Joseph's Phil Martelli

"Seattle is like a second home to us. If we couldn't play the game in Spokane, the next-best place is Seattle."
-- Gonzaga's Mark Few

"I never try to determine where we're going to go. I never try to determine who we're going to play. When I look at the brackets, I'm looking at Air Force."
-- North Carolina's Roy Williams

"We're not Duke-ish, but kids who play basketball have seen our name at the top of the list for many years."
-- Stanford's Mike Montgomery

"Obviously, there's already a bunch of people who think they'll beat us. By the time Friday gets here, we'll probably be severe underdogs."
-- Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings


Sunday, March 14, 2004

Digger Dug Deeper

Contradicting Dukie V and noting that the Blue Devils are 6-5 over their last 11 games. Will the 'Cats have a chance?

-- Seth Davis has done his homework. His analysis was dynamite on network TV.
-- Steve Lavin looked overwhelmed. The chemistry between he and Bilas was off.
-- Billy Packer appeared to be the only pundit willing to be bold early, all but getting into an off-court tussle with Phil Martelli.


Quick Thoughts

Inside/Out--The potential Georgia Tech/Boston College match-up in the second round would be a doozie. The Yellow Jackets count on sensational guard play and the Eagles depends on a strong inside presence.

Duke/Arizona--Wow. What a game.

UTEP>Utah State--Down one for my projections. But I figured Air Force, BYU and Richmond would be in the tourney.

Maryland a 4 seed--How does a team go from the bubble two weeks back to a 4 seed?

Pittsburgh a 3 seed--If the Panthers were one bucket away from a 1 seed...

Kansas City, Missouri--Will be a wonderful home to the Jayhawks this week.

Wisconsin--Shouldn't complain. They'll be in Milwaukee.


A Wonderful Time of the Year

Bracketology, YoCo Style.

Ahead of the Selection Special, my thoughts:
Team (Record, RPI)

--IN (LOCKS)--
ACC: Duke (27-4, 1), Georgia Tech (23-9, 14), Maryland (18-11, 27), N.C. State (20-9, 12), North Carolina (18-10, 16), & Wake Forest (19-9, 19).
America East: Vermont
Atlantic 10: Dayton (23-8, 37), St. Joe's (27-1, 3), & Xavier (23-10, 40).
Atlantic Sun: Central Florida
Big 10: Illinois (25-5, 24), Michigan State (18-11, 35) & Wisconsin (23-6, 18).
Big 12: Kansas (20-8, 12), Oklahoma State (26-3, 9), Texas (22-6, 10) & Texas Tech (22-10, 29).
Big East: Boston College (23-9, 21), Connecticut (27-6, 7), Pittsburgh (29-4, 5), Providence (20-8, 20), Seton Hall (20-9, 28), & Syracuse (21-7, 15).
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Big South: Liberty
Big West: Utah State (25-3, 43) & Pacific.
Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth
Conference USA: Charlotte (21-8, 34), Cincinnati (23-6, 11), DePaul (21-9, 36), Louisville (20-9, 23), Memphis (21-7, 31) & UAB (20-9, 32).
Horizon: Illinois-Chicago
Ivy: Princeton
Metro Atlantic: Manhattan
Mid-American: Western Michigan (27-4, 51).
Mid-Continent: Valparaiso
Mid-Eastern: Florida A&M
Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois (25-4, 25) & Northern Iowa.
Mountain West: Utah (23-8, 39).
Northeast: Monmouth (N.J.)
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Pacific 10: Arizona (20-9, 41), Stanford (29-1, 6) & Washington (19-11, 67).
Patriot: Lehigh
SEC: Alabama (17-12, 26), Florida (20-9, 18), Kentucky (25-4, 2), Mississippi State (25-3, 4), South Carolina (23-10, 45) & Vanderbilt (21-9, 22).
Southern: East Tennessee State
Southland: Texas-San Antonio
Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette
SWAC: Alabama State
WAC: Nevada (23-8, 33).
West Coast: Gonzaga (27-2, 8)

--IN (Bubble)--
Atlantic 10: Richmond (20-12, 47) -- Ooh. A tough call, but wins over Colorado and at Kansas sealed the deal. Last team in (but if the Spiders fail to receive a bid, they should look no further than the late-season loss to Rhode Island).
Mountain West: Air Force (22-6, 70) -- Politically popular. Avoids controversy by honoring MWC regular-season champ.
Mountain West: BYU (21-8, 30) -- RPI too low to overlook. Huge win over Oklahoma State. Strong finish.

--OUT (Bubble)--
SEC: Georgia (16-13, 46) -- Mediocre record. 5-5 down the stretch. Harrick's stigma doesn't help.
WAC: UTEP (23-7, 44) -- Not a single victory against RPI top 25 competition. 2-3 against RPI top 50 opponents. When was the last time the teams that make-up the conference formerly known as the WAC (and now known as the WAC and the MWC) sent 5 teams? Not this year.
Big 12: Colorado (18-10, 56) -- Losses to Iowa State, Texas Tech hurt their cause. But the December loss to Richmond seals their fate.

--OUT--
ACC: Florida State (18-13, 52) -- 6-10 overall, 0-8 on the road, in conference play.
Big 10: Michigan (18-11) -- Only one marquee win (Wisconsin) but several questionable losses (Indiana X2, Minnesota, & Iowa).
Big 12: Oklahoma (19-10, 49) -- Not a single victory against RPI top 25 competition (0-7).
Big 12: Missouri (16-13, 48) -- Ugly loss to Kansas suggests Missouri's late-season run won't carry on into the tournament. If only they had started warmer...
Big East: Notre Dame (17-12, 50) -- Too many losses down the stretch.
SEC: Without Jaime Lloreda, LSU (18-10, 38) is an unlikely bet in the eyes of the Stewart Mandel and Joe Lunardi. I'm not sure how play absences factor in to the committee's decision and will therefore err on the side of caution.


Coach K Quickly Moved On...

and congratulated Gary Williams at half-court.

But how will his players - especially the younger ones, including Deng - respond to the loss?

Is Duke's "body of work" still worthy of a 1 seed? Might the 'Zags merit a second look?

Props to Maryland. But I stand by my earlier judgment; the Terrapins are mediocre.


Never Say Never

Duke 74, Maryland 64. 3:20 left.

In the case of the Dukies (and the mediocre Terrapins), I figure that with Coach K's "prevent offense," this game is over.

But now, tied up at 77, we're going to OT.


A Picture is worth...



Sentiment before Strategy

The normally on-target Mark Blaudschun commends (!) Connecticut's Jim Calhoun for playing Emeka Okafor in last night's Big East championship game.

I disagree. Risking injury to your team's star is a poor move ahead of the NCAA Tournament.


No Sh** Sherlock

Dukie V has a brilliant thought...


Evening Roundup: Online Pundits

-- Pittsburgh has the goods to win it all, argues CNN/SI's Luke Winn.

The Panthers came into the Big East tournament with two items on their agenda: 1) win the title, and 2) campaign for a No. 1 seed in the dance. They accomplished neither. But they convinced me that they can do the things necessary to make a run to the Final Four.

To learn why, read Luke's well-written case here.

--I've seen Stanford and Duke. And St. Joe's is no Stanford or Duke, writes Stewart Mandel.

The good news for coach Phil Martelli is that after this wake-up call, he probably won't have to worry about his team coming to play next week.

The bad news is, against a mature, good-shooting, sound defensive team, it might not matter.

Indeed.